Road Out of Winter
by Alison Stine
- Genre: Dystopian
- Publisher: MIRA
- Length: 277 pages
- Available: September 1, 2020
About the Author: Alison Stine is the award-winning author of Road Out of Winter to be published by MIRA Books in September, 2020, followed by a new novel in 2021. She has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, The Guardian, and many others. An NEA Fellow, her visual art appears in The Rumpus, and she has been a storyteller on The Moth. She lives in rural Appalachia with her partner and son.
Summary: When spring fails to arrive in Appalachian Ohio for the second year, and a cold, everlasting winter takes hold, Wylodine must leave behind the family farm in search of her drug addict mother and marijuana growing boyfriend, following them westward to California in hopes of a better life. She has the will, the supplies, and an inherited talent for making things grow in a barren world, all she needs now is to find a way to survive the road out of winter. The journey won’t be easy, but, with a little luck and some help from a few new allies, she will find the strength to push forward, resisting not just the weather, but the demented cult leader who hunts her, desperate to use her abilities for his own personal gain.
Alison Stine’s The Road Out of Winter is a poignant look at a classic dystopian trope that has, through the subtle urgency in her writing, started to feel a lot less like fiction and more like a warning of things to come. From extreme weather conditions to full, societal collapse, this gritty exploration of family, hope, and the horrors of toxic masculinity brings new relevance to the “end days” model, while still managing to leave the reader with the gnawing sense of being left out in the cold. The stoic realism that makes up each and every step of this short but compelling journey leaves an impression, coming together to form a medley that showcases both the highs and lows of humanity.
From the opening chapter it is clear that the real strength of the novel derives from its protagonist, Wil, who, while taking the majority of the story’s weight on her shoulders, never buckles. In fact, besides her antagonist, a patriarchal madman turned leader of a skatepark militia, there isn’t much oomph behind the other characters we encounter, even her travelling companions. Under different circumstances, this might have been a fault, but it isn’t long before it becomes obvious that this strategy works in the Road Out of Winter’s favor, keeping the reader at a close distance to Wil and feeling somewhat distrustful of the rest. This adds beautifully to the sense of isolation, which makes Wil’s strength and perseverance all the more compelling once things start going from bad to worse, effectively investing the reader in the story’s outcome.
Landing somewhere between The Road and Winter’s Bone, Alison Stine’s The Road Out of Winter succeeds in putting a new shine on an old formula, reminding us exactly why the world still needs novels like this, as well as why they should be heeded. Whether you’re looking for a dark, heart-gripping dystopian, or yet another reason to destroy the patriarchy, you’ll find comfort in Stine’s new world, even if it does leave you shivering to the last page.